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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
For some time now, Robert Crais has been threatening to step beyond the confines of the genre audience and into the consciousness of a wider, more mainstream readership, the same readership that has recently embraced such diverse figures as Walter Mosley, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block, and Michael Connelly. Crais's latest novel, L.A. Requiem— a big, complex, involving novel of revenge and murder in modern-day Los Angeles — might just be the book that elevates him to that same level of popularity.
L.A. Requiem is the eighth novel in a series that features Elvis Cole, a wisecracking private detective in the grand tradition, and his tough, terse, hard-bitten partner, Joe Pike. More than any of the previous seven entries, this one takes us deeply into the complex personal lives of its two protagonists.
As the story begins, Elvis is facing a major, but not unwelcome, lifestyle change: His girlfriend, Lucy Chenier, has just relocated to Los Angeles with her nine-year-old son Ben, drawn by both a lucrative job offer and the chance to live in closer proximity to Elvis. Trouble begins on moving day, which is rudely interrupted by a phone call from Joe Pike. An old girlfriend of Pike's named Karen Garcia — a figure from out of his enigmatic past — has just gone missing. Pike, contacted by her panic-stricken father, has volunteered to search for Karen, and asks Elvis to help. From this point forward, events take on an unexpected life of their own.
What looks like a routine missing-person case begins, almost immediately, to undergo a sinister seriesofmetamorphoses. Just hours after Elvis and Pike begin their investigation, Karen's body is located. She has been shot to death by an unknown assailant. The case shifts direction again when police sources reveal that Karen is the fifth such victim in 19 months. When word leaks out that a serial killer is loose in Los Angeles, the inevitable media circus ensues. Desperate for results, police concentrate their attention on a single, unlikely suspect who happens to resemble the psychological profile provided by the FBI. When that suspect is murdered by a man falsely identified as Joe Pike, Pike finds himself in jail, and Elvis finds himself forced, once again, to reexamine his most fundamental notions about the nature of this case.
Galvanized by the arrest of his partner, Elvis begins to question the supposedly random nature of the series of murders that culminated with Karen Garcia's death. Searching for connections, he focuses on the period, some 12 years before, when Joe Pike and Karen first came together. In the classic tradition of a Ross MacDonald novel, past events prove inextricably connected to the dramas of the present day. Incidents from Pike's former life as a Los Angeles policeman — incidents such as an unresolved Internal Affairs investigation, the arrest and conviction of a roving pedophile, and the violent death of Pike's partner, Abel Wozniak — are among the threads that Elvis follows as he struggles to uncover the truth behind a seemingly disparate series of killings, and to identify the damaged, dimly glimpsed figure responsible for them.
En route to that discovery, and to the violent and visceral events that follow in its wake, L.A. REQUIEM pushes at the boundaries of the traditional detective novel, moving easily between the primary, present-day narrative and a deliberately disconnected series of flashbacks that illuminate Pike's traumatic formative years and his brief, violent career with the LAPD. The result is a novel that functions on at least three levels: as an effective, tightly plotted mystery; as a moving examination of the growth and development of an individual soul; and as a complex presentation of the sometimes noble, sometimes demented things people do in the name of love.
L.A. Requiem has all the earmarks of a breakout book. It is painful and exhilarating, ambitious and exciting, shrewdly constructed and deeply felt. It is the best and biggest work to date from a writer who understands the inner workings of his chosen form, and who has something useful to tell us about love, loyalty, and the underlying causes of violence.